Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

20 Realistic Micro-Habits To Live Better Every Day

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Anardeep Panar has a useful article in Medium:

I’m sick of lists of habits that are unrealistic for the majority of people. Even worse is when someone says to wake up at 5 am or run 10 kilometers every day and calls it a micro-habit.

This is not one of those lists.

Each micro-habit here takes one minute at most each day or uses a task most people do anyway. None of them will transform or revolutionize your life but they can help you live a little bit better every day and this adds up over time.

I draw on the research by BJ Fogg in “Tiny Habits” and the Japanese concept of kaizen. When each task is so small it’s hard to skip it so there’s no need for willpower. The beauty of this is after some time it becomes a natural part of your daily routine so you’re acting in your best interests without even realizing it!

I’ve avoided fluffy ideas and stuck to things I have done in my own life where I can find good research backing. Don’t try to do everything on this list at once but pick the ones you think will work for you. Later you can come back for more or create your own to suit your lifestyle. Here we go!

#1. Lie on your back and hang your head and shoulders off the bed for up to two minutes.

In our daily lives, we don’t invert our bodies enough. This little stretch before going to sleep helps to open up the chest and get some blood flowing to the heart and brain. It feels good too!

For people who are hunched over their desk at an office, it also relieves some of the damage.

#2. Turn off autoplay and leave the control and your phone next to the TV.

Streaming services want you to watch more, they want you to be addicted to their service. I used to end up watching 3 episodes in a row when I planned to watch one because I was too lazy to stop when the next episode auto-played.

Turn the feature off and make sure your control is next to the TV so you physically have to get up to continue watching. It gives you a circuit breaker to choose to do something else with your time and move your body.

#3. Add on the cost to your health for any convenience buys.

There are so many things we can buy to make us lazier and make us do less work. Do you really need Alexa to turn the lights on and off rather than walking over to the switch yourself?

Work out how many steps/calories buying the product will cost you and make sure you replace it if you decide to buy. Don’t cut out simple everyday movements to make time to not go to the gym.

#4. Do extra squats whenever you go to the bathroom.

The Chair Test is used by doctors to test functional fitness. If you are young and healthy it might sound easy but it’s a key ability that diminishes as we age and can reduce our quality of life. Modern life means we sit for long periods which can weaken our muscles and make it harder to stand.

This doesn’t mean you need to break your back squatting at the gym. Try sneaking in a few squats whenever you finish in the bathroom. It might only be 10 squats a day but over time, it adds up.

#5. Balance on one leg when . . .

Continue reading.

I’ve started doing #4, which fits easily into daily routines because it takes so little time. See:

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2021 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

Scientist Debunks Myths About Exercise And Sleep

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Terry Gross at NPR interviewed Daniel Lieberman, a professor in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard. The audio of the interview (36 minutes) is at the link. The article there includes excerpts from the interview transcript. The article begins:

For much of history, human beings needed to be physically active every day in order to hunt or gather food — or to avoid becoming food themselves. It was an active lifestyle, but one thing it didn’t include was any kind of formal exercise.

Daniel Lieberman is a professor in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard. He says that the notion of “getting exercise” — movement just for movement’s sake — is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.

“Until recently, when energy was limited and people were physically active, doing physical activity that wasn’t necessarily rewarding, just didn’t happen,” Lieberman says. “When I go to these [remote African tribal] villages, I’m the only person who gets up in the morning and goes for a run. And often they laugh at me. They think I’m just absolutely bizarre. … Why would anybody do something like that?”

nt a lot of time with indigenous hunter-gatherers in Africa and Latin America, cataloging how much time they spend walking, running, lifting, carrying and sitting. He writes about his findings, as well as the importance of exercise and the myths surrounding it in his new book, Exercised.

“If you actually look at what our ancestors do, they walk about 5 miles a day, which turns out to be, for most people, about 10,000 steps,” Lieberman says.

Lieberman notes that many people are moving less than they did before the pandemic. He says if 10,000 steps feels out of reach, it’s OK to shoot for less — just so long as you’re focused on movement. Even fidgeting can keep your muscles engaged.

“The more we study physical activity, the more we realize that it doesn’t really matter what you do,” Lieberman says. “You don’t have to do incredible strength training … to get some benefits of physical activity. There’s all different kinds of physical activity, and it’s all good in different ways.”

Interview highlights

On the demonizing of sitting as “the new smoking”

When I walk into a village in a remote part of the world where people don’t have chairs or a hunter-gatherer camp, people are always sitting. … Some friends and colleagues of mine actually put some accelerometers on some hunter-gatherers and found that they sit on average about 10 hours a day, which is pretty much the same amount of time Americans like me spend sitting.

So it turns out that I think we’ve kind of demonized sitting a little falsely. It’s not unnatural or strange or weird to sit a lot, but it is problematic if, of course, that’s all you do. As I started to explore the literature more, I was fascinated because most of the data that associates sitting a lot with poor health outcomes turns out to be leisure-time sitting. So if you look at how much time people spend sitting at work, it’s not really that associated with heart disease or cancers or diabetes. But if you look at how much people sit when they’re not at work, well, then the numbers get a little bit scary.

On the importance of “interrupted sitting”

Just getting up every once in a while, every 10 minutes or so — just to go to the bathroom or pet your dog or make yourself a cup of tea — even though you’re not spending a lot of energy, you’re turning on your muscles. And your muscles, of course, are the largest organ in your body — and just turning them on turns down inflammation. It uses up fats in your bloodstream and sugars in your bloodstream, and it produces molecules that turn down inflammation. So the evidence is that interrupted sitting is really the best way to sit. In hunter-gatherer camps, people are getting up every few minutes, to take care of the fire or take care of a kid or something like that. And that kind of interrupted sitting, as well as not sitting in a chair that’s kind of nestling your body and preventing you from using any muscles, all that kind of keeps your muscles going and turns out to be a much healthier way to sit.

On how chairs with backs have contributed to our back pain

We all think that it’s normal for a chair to have a seat back. But until recently, only really rich people — the pope or the king — had a chair with a seat back. Until recently, all human beings pretty much either sat on the ground or, if they did have chairs, they were stools or benches or things like that. …

The reason it matters for our health is that a seat back essentially makes sitting even more passive than just sitting on a bench or a stool because you lean against the seat back and you’re using even fewer muscles, even less effort to stabilize your upper body. And the result is that we end up having very weak backs. So there are a lot of muscles that we use in our backs to hold up our upper body, and those muscles, if we don’t use them, just like every other muscle in your body, they atrophy. And weak muscles then make us more prone to back pain. In fact, studies show that the best predictor of whether or not somebody gets lower-back pain — and most of us do get lower-back pain — is whether or not we have weak and, importantly, fatigable backs. I think sitting a lot on chairs with backrests contributes to that.

On the idea that running is bad for your knees

There’s this kind of general idea out there that running is like driving your car too much — [that] it’s wear and tear, and that running is highly stressful and it just wears away your cartilage, just like driving your car for a long period of time wears out your springs, for example. And that turns out not to be true. Study after study has shown . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2021 at 10:56 am

The weight-loss program that got better with time

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New Year’s Day is a time of resolutions and resets, so I thought this brief video would be of interest.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 January 2021 at 12:40 pm

Diet Drift and a Hard Reset: Learning to recover from failure

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I just had another article published on Medium. It discusses something I’ve blogged about, though with an emphasis on the learning aspect.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 5:18 pm

Learning concentration through playing chess

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Jonathan Rowson, the co-founder and director of Perspectiva, a research institute in London, and the author of The Moves that Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life (2019), writes in Aeon:

Arriving at the chess board is like entering an eagerly anticipated party. All my old friends are there: the royal couple, their associates, the reassuringly straight lines of noble infantry. I adjust them, ensuring that they are optimally located in the centre of their starting squares, an anxious fidgeting and tactile caress. I know these pieces, and care about them. They are my responsibility. And I’m grateful to my opponent for obliging me to treat them well on pain of death.

In many ways, I owe chess everything. Since the age of five, the game has been a source of friendship, refuge and growth, and I have been a grandmaster for 20 years. The lifelong title is the highest awarded to chess players, and it is based on achieving three qualifying norms in international events that are often peak performances, combined with an international rating reflecting a consistently high level of play – all validated by FIDE, the world chess federation. There are about 1,500 grandmasters in the world. At my peak, I was just outside the world top 100, and I feel some gentle regret at not climbing even higher, but I knew there were limits. Even in the absence of a plan A for my life, chess always felt like plan B, mostly because I couldn’t imagine surrendering myself to competitive ambition. I have not trained or played with serious professional intent for more than a decade, and while my mind remains charmed by the game, my soul feels free of it.

In recent years, I have worked in academic and public policy contexts, attempting to integrate our understanding of complex societal challenges with our inner lives, while also looking after my two sons. I miss many things about not being an active player. I miss the feeling of strength, power and dignity that comes with making good decisions under pressure. I miss the clarity of purpose experienced at each moment of each game, the lucky escapes from defeat, and the thrill of the chase towards victory. But, most of all, I miss the experience of concentration.

I can still concentrate, of course, but not with the same reliability and intensity that a life of professional chess affords. In fact, from a distance, chess looks to me suspiciously like a socially permissible pretext to concentrate for several hours at a time. In The Island from the Day Before (1994), Umberto Eco composes a love letter that includes the line: ‘[O]nly in your prison does [my heart] enjoy the most sublime of freedoms’ – that could be said of chess, too, and the experience of concentration is what makes it possible. I believe concentration is a defining feature of a fulfilling life, a necessary habit of mind for a viable civilisation, and that chess can teach us more about what concentration really means.

Any skilled endeavour entails concentration, but chess is unusual in requiring that we concentrate not for a few minutes at a time, but for several hours at a time, within tournaments, for days at a time, and within careers, for years at a time. Concentration is the sine qua non of the chess experience.

In chess, concentration usually unfolds in quick succession through perceiving, desiring and searching. But it’s recursive, so I often find something I didn’t expect in a way that leads me to see my position differently and want something else from it. My perception is pre-patterned through years of experience, so I don’t see one square or piece at a time. Instead, I see the whole position as a situation featuring relationships between pieces in familiar strategic contexts; a castled king, a fianchettoed bishop, a misplaced knight, an isolated pawn; it’s a kind of conceptual grammar. The meaning of the position is embedded in those patterns, partly revealed and partly concealed, and my search to do the right thing feels fundamentally aesthetic in nature.

I could describe the feeling as a kind of evaluative hunting  not so much for a particular target, but for trails of ideas that look right and feel right. I am drawn towards some transfigurations of the patterns that make me look deeper, and repelled by others. Good moves have the qualities of truth and beauty. They are discoveries of how things are, and should be.

However, chess invites me to deepen my concentration a few centimetres away from another being who is also trying to concentrate; someone I can smell, sense moving, and hear breathing. I often know, even like, these people, but they loom within my psyche in a relatively impersonal sense – a familiar energy, not friends as such. I sometimes think of chess opponents as psychopathic flatmates with whom I have to share a living space. They look harmless, but I know we signed the same contract that says they need to try to get inside my room, steal my possessions and hunt me down, before killing me; naturally, I am obliged to do the same to them. Together we create a story, and narrative themes such as attack and defence are both reduced and reified into particular moves with particular pieces on particular squares, which we record like stenographers, into our own arcana of algebraic notation. The climax of a game’s story might be ‘Brutal counter-attack!’ but the record merely reflects the logical power of a short sequence of moves, for instance: ‘…34. Bf3 Nh3+ 35.Kh1 Qg4!! Resigns.’

The forces on the board are always . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 7:32 am

Posted in Chess, Daily life, Fitness, Games

What a great slant! And a sunny day inspires honeysuckle.

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The fragrance of honeysuckle as autumn draws to an end is a pleasant olfactory anachronism. And the lather from Phoenix Artisan’s kokum butter shaving soap is extremely nice. The Simpson Emperor 2 is a very nice little brush — I decided that this week will be Simpson week so far as brushes are concerned — and its lather work was excellent.

I’m still greatly enjoying my iKon stainless slant now that I’ve learned to favor the cap in the stroke — and what good acoustics it has! The crisp static-like sound of stubble being cut is quite soothing.

A splash of the aftershave and a new week begins, quite auspiciously. Not only a great shave with a razor I increasingly love, but also (as you see) a brilliantly sunny morning, and my hard reset of my diet (plus exercise) is working amazingly well. My average fasting blood glucose is dropping quickly, as you see, and the interesting thing about this morning’s chart is that 5.5 mmol/L (93 mg/dL) is that it is in the “normal” range — the top of the normal range, to be sure (5.6 starts the “pre-diabetic” range), but a vast improvement over the 6.5 that was my previous 90-day average. 

And returning to my diet brings its own pleasures — for example, I’ve making enjoying an afternoon cranberry slushie.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2020 at 11:11 am

Posted in Fitness, Food, Health, Shaving

Taking walks again and other health notes

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Regular readers know that about 18 months ago I adopted a whole-food plant-only diet, which I’ve described in some detail. My motivation was primarily to improve my overall health and more specifically to help with my type 2 diabetes.

Whole-food” means no refined or highly processed foods, which eliminates refined sugar (and foods that contain it), refined salt (and foods that contain it), flour (and foods made from it), and foods made from refined ingredients using industrial processes and sold packaged with a brand name (and heavy marketing) — for example, Cheez Whiz, Diet Coke, and most “convenience” foods. 

Plant-only” means no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs (and no foods that contain those as ingredients — thus no mayonnaise, for example). 

To make sure that I cover the nutritional bases, I used Cronometer for a while. (It’s free, but I opted for Gold status, which provides some additional features for $35/year.) Using Cronometer did indeed reveal some deficiencies, which I mostly corrected through diet — for example, I wasn’t getting enough selenium, so I added 1 brazil nut per day to my diet; I was short of B5 (pantothenic acid), so I added mushrooms to my daily diet (since I like mushrooms). (The search term “foods high in…” is quite useful, though Cronometer itself can make suggestions).

A standard issue in plant-only diets is vitamin B12, and I took care of that by chewing (for faster absorption) a B12 tablet (cyanocobalamin) each morning (with the brazil nut, as it happens). I also take a vitamin D supplement (living as I do in a high latitude, thus with weaker sunlight). And as I posted yesterday, I am now adding a vitamin A supplement. In general, Cronometer showed that my diet was nutritionally sound.

Because of my diabetes, I had been following a low-carb high-fat diet. (“High” is somewhat misleading. It means only that you add enough fat to match the calories lost by cutting net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber). For example, if you reduce net carbs by 100g (which is 400 calories), you add 45g fat (405 calories).)

The low-carb diet, together with medication, did bring my blood glucose under control, but as I posted, the reason was that I was not eating any carbs to speak of — around 30g/day of net carbs. On the whole-food plant-only (WFPO) diet, I increased my intake of net carbs from around 30g/day to around 145g/day. However, my intake of dietary fiber also greatly increased (eating whole foods, avoiding refined foods, and eating only plants means you get a lot of fiber). On my new diet my intake of dietary fiber is around 60g/day. (Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs contain zero dietary fiber — and dietary fiber is essential for the health of the gut microbiome, which is essential for your own health.)

It took me a while to find my footing and develop new routines and patterns of eating, but through trial and error I developed an eating pattern based on Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen. The Daily Dozen provides a template and framework that made it easy to plan my daily food intake.

As a result of the change in diet, my diabetes significantly improved (as did my blood pressure), to the degree that my doctor told me to discontinue all the medications I had been taking. My HbA1c went to 5.2% (well within normal range) and my fasting blood glucose was around 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dl). 

And then…

Fast-forward a year. I was doing so well that I decided it would be okay to eat a piece of fish once every week or two — and I do like steelhead. The plot sequence at this point is a cliché: the piece of fish once every week or two became a piece of fish three or four times a week, and I decided eggs (cooked in butter) would be okay occasionally (and then frequently — I had to use the dozen before they went bad, after all). And then I ventured to eat a steak about once a month. Moreover, it seemed appropriate to have wine with my meals and an evening cocktail (I’m partial to rye Manhattans (redundant, but rye is not so commonly used) and gin Martinis (also redundant, but nowadays it’s wise to specify). 

My fasting blood-glucose readings gradually increased: I started seeing 6.0 fairly often, then 6.1, 6.3…. A doctor had told me that so long as the readings were below 7.0, all was well, but I was getting uneasy. My Contour Next blood glucose meter gives me averages, and I couldn’t help but notice that the averages also were slowly increasing (naturally enough). My morning readings started to include an occasional 6.5 and then an occasional 6.8. But the readings jumped around a lot, and I naturally focused on the “good” (lower) readings. Then I noticed an average of 6.5.

And one morning I saw a 7.0 reading. I got seriously worried and cut back right away…  but then things improved somewhat so I resumed the drift. I reassured myself by noting how much the readings varied day to day (and tried to ignore the increased averages).

Then I hit a rocky series of readings, starting 18 November: 6.5 (bad, so I was careful), 5.8 (that’s more like it) — and then 7.0, 6.7, 6.4, 6.5, 6.1, 7.0, 7.3 (!), 6.7, 6.8, 6.1, 6.5 — and I thought “Enough’s enough.” I decided I had to do hard reset. 

The hard reset

I knew, of course, exactly what I needed to do, but this time I wrote it down — putting things in writing makes them more concrete and, in effect, nails them to the wall. I wrote:

1. No alcohol (first day was 30 Nov 2020 and I’m still abstaining)
2. Daily walk with Sunday as a rest day (first day was 2 Dec 2020 (2000 steps), with a goal of 8000 steps/day)
3. No food after 5:00 (first day was 3 Dec 2020 — no eating in the evening helps with fasting blood glucose)

At the right you see my fasting blood-glucose averages two weeks into the hard reset. (And this result is without taking any medication at all.) One morning this week I even had a reading of 5.2 mmol/L. The 90-day average as of yesterday was 6.5, but today it dropped to 6.4. A fasting blood glucose of 5.5 mmol/L is the top of the “normal” range; 5.6 is the bottom of the “pre-diabetic” range. (“Diabetes” starts at 7.0.)

It’s clear that cutting out animal-based foods has made a quick and quite noticeable difference in my blood glucose levels. The reason is well understood: saturated fat spikes blood glucose. (The 7.0 reading was the day after I had a steak and the 7.3 followed a dinner of beef shank.)

By sticking with plant-only foods (and not eating any coconut), I avoid saturated fat, and that helps significantly with the blood glucose (as does eating whole rather than refined foods). Here’s why:

And the walking helps

Walking certainly helps physically, and I find it also helps with mood and morale. Getting out of the apartment into the open air and seeing interesting things in the neighborhood brightens the day and broadens the range of experience (beyond being in the apartment). For example, this shrub caught my eye: I like the fractal-like branches. Nothing like that in my apartment.

Almost all houses in this neighborhood boast flower gardens, in a wide variety of styles and designs. There is also a good variety of fences and gates, not to mention houses. You can see that people have devoted thought and effort to create their own little garden environment (cf. the movie Greenfingers, with Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, and Warren Clarke — check for availability). 

Even though it’s very late in the fall — winter begins in 9 days — I see some bushes still valiantly blooming. There’s one at the left, but there are others. And bushes with white berries — I need to learn some botany.

Another unexpected pleasure: I encounter a variety of little free libraries — I’ve spotted three so far, and I bet I will find more. Perhaps soon I’ll borrow (or donate) a book. And I go by a couple of parks, and of course there’s the Salish Sea right across the road for part of my walk.

I’ve been walking rain or shine (so far but one day in the rain, when I found walking with an umbrella is not a problem). And I have found a time for the habit — before my (late) lunch. (Breakfast lately is tea and three pieces of fresh fruit.)

Resist entropy

I followed a common sequence. I started with good resolutions, good results, and good persistence, and that lasted for months. But then I started probing the boundaries, and then drifting across (or moving) the boundaries. And then there’s the shocked awakening: “What am I doing?! What have I done?!”

That was the moment that I decided I needed a hard reset. Because I’m familiar with what I needed to do — where, in effect, I needed to be — it has been easy enough to resume good practice (though I definitely think writing it down helped — there’s a reason we are advised to put our goals in writing. And the restrictions due to the pandemic help, since they eliminate restaurant meals and socializing over food and drink. 

Now all I need to do is to stay the course and fight the universal pressure to move from order to disorder. I must remind myself from time to time what happens when I cast caution to the winds — or even nudge it aside a little. Pushing the pebble over the ledge can lead to a landslide.

Update: My fasting blood glucose this morning (13 Dec 2020) is 5.1 mmol/L (93 mg/dL). That is excellent. Of course, I don’t want to venture into hypoglcemia (when blood glucose is too low): “A blood sugar level below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) is low and can harm you. A blood sugar level below 54 mg/dL (3.0 mmol/L) is a cause for immediate action.” I’m well above the harmful level. The Mayo Clinic notes:

A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. If it’s 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.

I’ll note again that I am achieving these levels with no medication: only diet and, lately, exercise.

14 Dec: This morning my blood glucose was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL), which is in the normal range — but more important, my 7-day average (see at right) was 5.5 mmol/L, also within normal range (albeit at the top: 5.6 is where “pre-diabetic” begins).

I’m still surprised at the rapidity of recovery once I returned rigorously to a whole-food plant-only diet. And I’ve been enjoying a cranberry slushie as an afternoon treat (recipe at the link).

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2020 at 7:43 pm

A walk and a monkey-puzzle tree

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On reading that a brief walk is much better than none, I decided to walk up to our local bulk goods store to get walnuts and more of that smoked garlic-dill-chilli tofu. I read about the walk in a NY Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, who notes:

Walking for at least 11 minutes a day could lessen the undesirable health consequences of sitting for hours and hours, according to a helpful new study of the ways in which both inactivity and exercise influence how long we live. The study, which relied on objective data from tens of thousands of people about how they spent their days, found that those who were the most sedentary faced a high risk of dying young, but if people got up and moved, they slashed that threat substantially, even if they did not move much.

. . . Crunching the numbers further, the researchers concluded that the sweet spot for physical activity and longevity seemed to arrive at about 35 minutes a day of brisk walking or other moderate activities, an amount that led to the greatest statistical improvement in life span, no matter how many hours someone sat.

There’s more in the article, but that provides the finding. And it (and the need for walnuts and desire for tofu) were enough to get me moving. And the way to the store I walk past the monkey-puzzle tree pictured, which looks like a young tree. It turns out to be native to Chile and Argentina.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2020 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

The peril of pursuing perfection

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I have written about the difficulty faced by adult beginners in playing piano: they are hyperconscious of the mistakes they make, and they don’t want to play until they can play without making such mistakes. But studying our mistakes is how we learn.

I just came across this story from Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Update: Cf. Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2020 at 3:42 pm

Daily Dozen Digest: Beverages and Exercise

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From a newsletter series from Dr. Michael Greger:

Who’s new favorite breakfast is a big bowl of oats, loaded with berries and fruit, and topped with nuts, flax, and cinnamon? So many boxes checked in just the first meal of the day!

It’s hard to believe, but together we’ve covered all of the food items on the Daily Dozen! We have just a few topics left to cover. The Daily Dozen is composed of more than just food, because a well-balanced diet should also be complimented with proper hydration and exercise. So this week we’re bring you another power pair – Beverages & Exercise. Let’s sweat the details together and figure out what beverages are the healthiest and just how much we should be exercising!

Quick Tips

Beverages – the healthiest beverages are water, green tea, or an herbal tea called hibiscus.

Exercise – walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, aerobics, dancing, martial arts, competitive sports, yoga. Find a safe activity you enjoy, and go do it!

Fast Facts

  • Unless you have a condition like heart or kidney failure or your physician advises you to restrict your fluid intake, Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen recommendation is to get at least five 12-ounce (60 oz total) servings of water per day. We can even get water from eating fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise is so important that not walking an hour a day is considered a high risk behavior.
  • If the U.S. population collectively exercised enough to shave just one percent off the national body mass index, two million cases of diabetes, one-and-a-half million cases of heart disease and stroke, and a hundred thousand cases of cancer might be prevented.

Tasty Recipes

Lemon-Ginger Cooler

You can also serve this scintillating beverage as a hot tea

Mango Blueberry Smoothie

A delicious beverage or even a snack!

Top Viewed Videos on Beverages & Exercise

Better than Green Tea?

The antioxidant content of a number of popular beverages is compared: black tea, coffee, Coke, espresso, grape juice, green tea, hibiscus (Jamaica flower) tea, milk, Pepsi, Red Bull, red tea, red wine, and white wine. Which beats out even powdered (matcha) green tea?

How Much Hibiscus Tea Is Too Much?

The impressive manganese content of hibiscus tea may be the limiting factor for safe daily levels of consumption.

How Much Should You Exercise? 

Physical fitness authorities seem to have fallen into the same trap as the nutrition authorities, recommending what they think may be achievable, rather than simply informing us what the science says and letting us make up our own mind.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 October 2020 at 10:31 am

High-Fat Diets Still Don’t Boost Endurance

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Interesting article, though the low-carb high-fat diet is now quite small in my rear-view mirror. Still, I persisted on it for five years. But the more I learned, the worse the diet looked.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2020 at 10:58 am

Back from walk

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I saw a couple of these on my walk. They come through the neighborhood from time to time.

A good walk, including a stop by the little neighborhood market, where I restocked my supply of fresh San Marzano tomatoes: “Make hay while the sun shines.” My little backpack has proved invaluable — in its pouch it fits comfortably in my pocket, and then when needed it has good capacity (18L) — and leaves my hands free for the Nordic walking poles.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2020 at 5:02 pm

Walkies, produce haul, and some plants observed

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One walk today for exercise, another for groceries. On the exercise walk I saw this horse topiary and the two crane topiaries at the right. They were both in the same yard, which was a hotel (with tea room) in a predominantly residential neighborhood. The hotel was not out of character for the neighborhood and fit in well.

I also walked by this tree overhanging the sidewalk and admired the blooms. That yard and many of the yards I walked past was given over to a flower garden. As you walk along you’ll find yourself engulfed in a cloud of fragrance that fades as you move beyond that yard, but then another fragrance will waft across the sidewalk from the next yard. And the colors!

Altogether, it made me appreciate urban living rather than suburbs with their vast empty lawns, spread out so that cars are required to get anywhere. In this little neighborhood, I walked by a variety of little cafés, tea rooms, and bars, all nestled into the neighborhood.

And once I returned home and had lunch, I set out again for the local store that sells bulk foods and someproduce — that’s the store where I got the San Marzano tomatoes. None of those today (they will get more tomorrow), but I did get some very nice Roma tomatoes, a young onion (the stem was still green), and couple of male eggplants. (Males eggplants are preferred because they have many fewer seeds, and the seeds tend to be bitter — this I learned today, along with how to tell the difference, from a recipe video.)

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2020 at 4:34 pm

Is Your Blood Sugar Undermining Your Workouts?

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Another strike against a diet high in refined sugar and highly processed foods. Gretchen Reynolds writes in the NY Times:

People with consistently high levels of blood sugar could get less benefit from exercise than those whose blood sugar levels are normal, according to a cautionary new study of nutrition, blood sugar and exercise. The study, which involved rodents and people, suggests that eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods, which may set the stage for poor blood sugar control, could dent our long-term health in part by changing how well our bodies respond to a workout.

We already have plenty of evidence, of course, that elevated blood sugar is unhealthy. People with hyperglycemia tend to be overweight and face greater long-term risks for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, even if, in the early stages, their condition does not meet the criteria for those diseases.

They also tend to be out of shape. In epidemiological studies, people with elevated blood sugar often also have low aerobic fitness, while, in animal studies, rats bred with low endurance from birth show early blood-sugar problems, as well. This interrelationship between blood sugar and fitness is consequential in part because low aerobic fitness is closely linked to a high risk of premature death.

But most past studies of blood sugar and fitness have been epidemiological, meaning they have identified links between the two conditions but not their sequence or mechanisms. They have not clarified whether hyperglycemia usually precedes and leads to low fitness, or the other way around, or how either condition manages to influence the other.

So, for the new study, which was published this month in Nature Metabolism, researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and other institutions decided to raise blood sugar levels in mice and see what happened when they exercised.

They started with adult mice, switching some from normal chow to a diet high in sugar and saturated fat, similar to what many of us in the developed world eat nowadays. These mice rapidly gained weight and developed habitually high blood sugar.

They injected other mice with a substance that reduces their ability to produce insulin, a hormone that helps to control blood sugar, similar to when people have certain forms of diabetes. Those animals did not get fatter, but their blood sugar levels rose to the same extent as among the mice in the sugary diet group.

Other animals remained on their normal chow, as a control group.

After four months, the scientists checked each mouse’s fitness by measuring how long it could run on a treadmill before exhaustion. They then put a running wheel in each animal’s cage and let them jog at will for the next six weeks, which they did. On average, each mouse ran about 300 miles during that month and a half.

But they did not all gain the same level of fitness. The control group now ran for a much longer period of time on the treadmill before exhaustion; they were much fitter. But the animals with high blood sugar showed little improvement. Their aerobic fitness had barely budged.

Interestingly, their exercise resistance was the same, whether their blood sugar problems stemmed from poor diet or lack of insulin, and whether they were overweight or slimmer. If they had high blood sugar, they resisted the benefits of exercise.

To better understand why, the scientists next looked inside muscles. And conditions there were telling. The muscles of the control animals teemed with healthy, new muscle fibers and a network of new blood vessels ferrying extra oxygen and fuel to them. But the muscle tissues of the animals with high blood sugar displayed mostly new deposits of collagen, a rigid substance that seems to have crowded out new blood vessels and prevented the muscles from adapting to the exercise and contributing to better fitness.

Finally, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2020 at 10:41 am

First walk from the new apartment

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A short walk — 1.3 miles, 29 minutes — just to explore neighborhood. No hills — I’ll have to look for one, since I particularly enjoyed the ascents and descents of the old route. Many nice sights along the way, and here’s one. I did use my Nordic walking poles of course. I did wear a mask, but perhaps not next time.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2020 at 4:31 pm

Dr. Greger on diet vs. exercise in the obesity epidemic

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2020 at 6:49 pm

“I Quit Smoking After Many Failed Attempts”

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I would say “practice attempts” rather than “failed attempts,” but in any even the Medium story Felix Wankel writes about what he discovered is worth reading — and applying. He begins:

In 2018, I was working at an office on the 4th floor. I took the stairs for the first time on the day the elevator broke down. Until that moment, I didn’t know my lungs were not capable of climbing stairs, even to the 4th floor. I was out of breath and almost started to sweat when I finally sit at my table. I thought about how my life will be like in 10 years while waiting for my breath to get back to normal. I imagined myself covered in tubes and wires lying in a hospital bed, maybe I’ll not be able to speak properly, even thinking about it was terrifying. On that day, thanks to the elevator, I decided to quit smoking.

After quick research on the internet, I found Allen Carr’s famous method. There were hundreds of people saying that they finally quit smoking by following his advice despite their previous unsuccessful attempts. Comments on the internet were convincing, I decided to give it a try. The method helped me to understand the addiction, also clearly showed me that biases and fears play an important role as well as the physical effects of nicotine. It worked for me but didn’t last long, I found myself smoking a cigarette after 4 days. But I didn’t see it as a failure, not smoking for 4 days was a record for me. I tried to quit several more times by the same method but the results didn’t change, I kept smoking after short periods.

I was determined to quit so I continued my research for alternative techniques and read a couple of books that focus on addiction in general. Among various other suggestions, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2020 at 5:37 pm


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Nice day — 46ºF, clear sky, no wind — and I did 3.685 miles at 3.42mph, so 1:04:42 is the time. The route was two large loops and two smaller loops. When I include the two tiny loops for the “complete” route, the distance (as I’ve computed, not according to GPS Odometer) is 3.8 miles, which I do in 01:06:00, more or less: 3.45mph.

The effort has become pleasantly strenuous rather than desperately gasping for air.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2020 at 4:22 pm

Walk today

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3.060 miles at 3.42mph, so 00:53:44. I can tell I’m getting in better shape: it’s not so strenuous, though definitely a good workout.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2020 at 3:47 pm

The Son’s Game Design department at Bradley University: #8 in the world

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So says Princeton Review:

And, in other family news, my walk today was 2.582 miles at 3.48mph: 00:44:34.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2020 at 2:36 pm

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